by Judy Lash Balint Jerusalem Post
September 19, 2005
Can anyone explain to me why Beer Sheva and Seattle are Sister Cities? Generally speaking, sister city relationships are made up of two cities that share geographical traits, size or economic similarities, right? But where's the commonality between Seattle--a trendy, water-bound metropolis of some 534,000 laid back souls, and Beer Sheva, a hot, dusty town that's home to 133,000 Jews living in the middle of Israel's Negev desert??
But just a few days ago, on the tranquil shores of Lake Washington in south Seattle, a pleasant ceremony took place to mark the completion of another project of the Sister City relationship.
A neglected city park was renovated and redesigned by the neighbors and outfitted with some nice artwork and new play equipment, and as the water lapped against the shores of the grassy expanse I couldn't help thinking that the kids of Beer Sheva would kill to have a park like this.
Under the shade of the towering fir trees, neighbors mingled with city officials and renegade Jews who have kept up the Beer Sheva-Seattle relationship despite being ignored by the Seattle Jewish establishment, who take their direction from the United Jewish Communities. Several years ago, UJC decided that Seattle and a few other west coast Jewish communities would be twinned with Kiryat Malachi, a development town in southern Israel. But the Beer Sheva Sister City Committee folks already had relationships with Beersheva city officials and Ben Gurion University staff and faculty stretching back to the late 1970s.
Despite the lack of official Jewish support, money was raised, an architect was engaged and neighbors pitched in to build the playground. I think I was the only Israeli at the ceremony--and a few of the locals had no idea that the park had anything to do with Israel. They showed up because they saw the sign that said something about Beer...
On the City of Seattle Sister City website, the photo on the Beer Sheva page looks like it was actually taken at the Dead Sea. Unless a large lake sprang up in Beer Sheva all of a sudden...
Anyway, I guess that hundreds of years from now, archaeologists will be busy trying to figure out how and why signs of life from Beer Sheva show up near the lake in Seattle.